Consumer confidence level rises in May: BluFin

BluFin's Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) rose to 41.4 points in May, an increase of 3.4 points since the beginning of the year, due to improved spending behaviour coupled with easing inflation

Indian consumers' confidence level rose in the month of May on the back of to improved spending behaviour coupled with easing inflation, a study by financial services provider BluFin revealed.


BluFin's Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) rose to 41.4 points in May, an increase of 3.4 points since the beginning of the year.


The index is a key ‘aggregate’ indicator that assesses the pulse of urban Indian consumers with regard to the economy, spending behaviour and employment. The index reflects pessimism at below 50 score and optimism above that.


The two key components of the CCI indicated improvement in the consumer sentiment.


A sub index, which rates inflation sentiment, rose from 23.9 points in January to 26.8 points in May, while the spending sentiment improved from 28.3 points to 30.5 points in the same period.


However, pessimistic views on employment continue to be a small drag on the consumer confidence index. The employment sentiment declined to 50.2 points in May from 51.4 points at the beginning of the year.


Nonetheless, the score itself is encouraging as it is above the benchmark level of 50.


Another sub-index, which measures future expectations, was at 40 points, indicating consumers were still pessimistic about the economy's prospects. However, consumers were more comfortable about their present situation with a score of 46.


In terms of region, consumer confidence in North India registered a rise of about two points to 39 points in May, after a steady decline since January 2013.


“North Indian consumers, who have been the most sensitive to economic vagaries in the recent past, have been showing increased propensity to spend. This makes the North India numbers a lead indicator of an impending turnaround in overall consumer sentiment in India,” BluFin CEO Rashid Bilimoria said.


“A key driver for this improvement is declining pessimism about inflation among consumers leading to a rising expectation of a rate cut,” he added.


The survey has shown consumers in the eastern region of India to be the most pessimistic while those in the southern states to be the most optimistic, with cities such as Bangalore generally scoring above the benchmark level of 50.


The index is based on nation-wide monthly surveys of 4,000 respondents across 18 cities conducted by custom market research company TNS.


The NSA black hole: Five basic things we still don’t know about the Agency’s snooping

The recent leaks have shed light on one of the darkest corners of the U.S. government -- but when it comes to mass surveillance practices, clarity remains elusive

Last week saw revelations that the FBI and the National Security Agency have been collecting Americans’ phone records en masse and that the agencies have access to data from nine tech companies.

But secrecy around the programs has meant even basic questions are still unanswered. Here’s what we still don’t know:

Has the NSA been collecting all Americans’ phone records, and for how long?

It’s not entirely clear.

The Guardian published a court order that directed a Verizon subsidiary to turn over phone metadata -- the time and duration of calls, as well as phone numbers and location data -- to the NSA “on an ongoing daily basis” for a three-month period. Citing unnamed sources, the Wall Street Journal reported the program also covers AT&T and Sprint and that it covers the majority of Americans. And Director of National Intelligence James Clapper himself acknowledged that the “collection” is “broad in scope.”

How long has the dragnet has existed? At least seven years, and maybe going back to 2001.

Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and vice chair Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said last week that the NSA has been collecting the records going back to 2006. That’s the same year that USA Today revealed a similar-sounding mass collection of metadata, which the paper said had been taking place since 2001. The relationship between the program we got a glimpse of in the Verizon order and the one revealed by USA Today in 2006 is still not clear: USA Today described a program not authorized by warrants. The program detailed last week does have court approval.

What surveillance powers does the government believe it has under the Patriot Act?

That’s classified.

The Verizon court order relies on Section 215 of the Patriot Act. That provision allows the FBI to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a secret order requiring companies, like Verizon, to produce records – “any tangible things” – as part of a “foreign intelligence” or terrorism investigation. As with any law, exactly what the wording means is a matter for courts to decide. But the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s interpretation of Section 215 is secret.

As Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman recently wrote, the details of that interpretation matter a lot: “Read narrowly, this language might require that information requested be shown to be important or necessary to the investigation. Read widely, it would include essentially anything even slightly relevant — which is to say, everything.”

In the case of the Verizon order -- signed by a judge who sits on the secret court and requiring the company to hand over “all call detail records" -- it appears that the court is allowing a broad interpretation of the Patriot Act. But we still don’t know the specifics.

Has the NSA’s massive collection of metadata thwarted any terrorist attacks?

It depends which senator you ask. And evidence that would help settle the matter is, yes, classified.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., told CNN on Sunday, “It's unclear to me that we've developed any intelligence through the metadata program that's led to the disruption of plots that we could [not] have developed through other data and other intelligence.”

He said he could not elaborate on his case “without further declassification.”

Sen. Feinstein told ABC that the collection of phone records described in the Verizon order had been “used” in the case of would-be New York subway bomber Najibullah Zazi. Later in the interview, Feinstein said she couldn’t disclose more because the information is classified. (It’s worth noting that there’s also evidence that old-fashioned police work helped solve the Zazi case — and that other reports suggest the Prism program, not the phone records, helped solve the case.)

How much information, and from whom, is the government sweeping up through Prism?

It’s not clear.

Intelligence director Clapper said in his declassified description that the government can’t get information using Prism unless there is an “appropriate, and documented, foreign intelligence purpose for the acquisition (such as for the prevention of terrorism, hostile cyber activities, or nuclear proliferation) and the foreign target is reasonably believed to be outside the United States.”

One thing we don’t know is how the government determines who is a “foreign target.” The Washington Post reported that NSA analysts use “search terms” to try to achieve “51 percent confidence” in a target’s “foreignness.” How do they do that? Unclear.

We’ve also never seen a court order related to Prism -- they are secret -- so we don’t know how broad they are. The Post reported that the court orders can be sweeping, and apply for up to a year. Though Google has maintained it has not "received blanket orders of the kind being discussed in the media."

So, how does Prism work?

In his statement Saturday, Clapper described Prism as a computer system that allows the government to collect “foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision.”

That much seems clear. But the exact role of the tech companies is still murky.

Relying on a leaked PowerPoint presentation, the Washington Post originally described Prism as an FBI and NSA program to tap “directly into the central servers” of nine tech companies including Google and Facebook. Some of the companies denied giving the government “direct access” to their servers. In a later story, published Saturday, the newspaper cited unnamed intelligence sources saying that the description from the PowerPoint was technically inaccurate.

The Post quotes a classified NSA report saying that Prism allows “collection managers [to send] content tasking instructions directly to equipment installed at company-controlled locations,” not the company servers themselves. So what does any of that mean? We don't know.

For more on mass surveillance in America, read our timeline of loosening laws and practices.



Jindal Steel tumbles 24% following FIR against Naveen Jindal in Coalgate scam

While Congress leader and MP Naveen Jindal had so far maintained distance from the coalgate scam, the CBI seems to think otherwise. The investigation agency had filed an FIR against Jindal and is conducting searches at 19 locations of JSPL in Delhi and Hyderabad. Does this signal changed equations in the Congress?

Jindal Steel & Power (JSPL) shares on Tuesday tumbled as much as by 24% in morning trade following a first information report (FIR) and subsequent searches at the 19 places related with the company by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).


At 12.35pm, JSPL shares were trading 18% down at Rs219 on the BSE, while the 30-share benchmark index was 1.2% down at 19,212. Earlier, it touched an intra-day low of Rs202, which was 24% down than its closing price on Monday.


The CBI, which is investigation the coalgate scam, registered an FIR against JSPL and its chairman Naveen Jindal, who is also a member of Parliament (MP) from Congress party. In the FIR, the CBI has alleged that both the company and the MP misrepresented crucial information for receiving valuable coalfields from the government.


The filing of FIR and investigations against the MP from Kurukshetra and his company signal changed equations in the Congress party as Naveen Jindal was supposed to be close with party president Sonia Gandhi and its general secretary Rahul Gandhi. The two-time MP from Haryana is part of the “youth brigade” in the Lok Sabha.


The FIR against JSPL, part of the $17 billion diversified OP Jindal group, also mentions cheating and conspiracy as charges. The investigation agency had also named Dasari Narayan Rao, the former minister of state for coal, as an accused in the coalgate scam.


Besides, the MP and former minister, the CBI has named JSPL, Gagan Sponge and two other companies in the Coalgate scam case.


The CBI is carrying out searches at 19 places in Delhi and Hyderabad in connection with coalgate scam.


Revelations in September 2012 showed the involvement of Naveen Jindal and his company in the Coalgate scam. His company gained by making and selling power at high prices. The coal blocks allotted to Jindal Power (JPL) in 1998, during the NDA regime, were followed by a slew of allocations under the UPA, which have culminated in making the Jindal Group the largest beneficiary of coal block allocations. It has reserves of 2,580 million tonnes of coal, while the second largest beneficiary in the private sector has just 1,500 million tonnes. But despite having the cheapest coal, Jindal sold power at the highest prices—Rs3.85 per unit in 2011-2012, compared to Lanco’s Rs3.67 and NTPC's Rs2.20. The previous year, JPL had sold power at an even higher rate of Rs4.30 per unit. The combination of cheap coal and high power prices explains why Jindal posted Rs1,765 crore as profit, or 60% of its revenues, while Lanco made a profit of just Rs155 crore, just 12% of its revenues.


Last month, taking a strong stand against CBI for allowing interference in the coalgate scam report, the Supreme Court had called the investigating agency as “a caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice”.


The apex court also slammed Attorney General GE Vahanvati, former Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval and officials from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the coal ministry. “How on earth could the joint secretaries of the PMO and the coal ministry attend the meeting, see the report and suggest changes to it,” the court asked.


Earlier, in a nine-page affidavit submitted before the apex court, CBI director Ranjit Sinha admitted making changes in the ‘coalgate’ draft report on suggestions from Ashwani Kumar and the AG, but stated that it has neither altered the report nor shifted the focus of inquiries in any manner. “...heart of the CBI report was changed on the suggestions of government officials,” the court said.


In its nine-page affidavit, the CBI chief had given details of the meetings between the officials of the agency, the law minister, AG, then additional solicitor general Harin Raval and officials of the PMO and the coal ministry.


Last year in October, Jindal, the MP, had filed an FIR against Subhash Chandra, chairman of the Zee group, Punit Goenka, managing director of Zee, Sameer Ahluwalia and Sudhir Chaudhary, both editors and business heads of Zee Business channel. In the FIR, Jindal had said that Ahluwalia and Chaudhary demanded “certain advertisement commitments” worth several crores of rupees (Rs100 crore, according to media reports) for not broadcasting a story about the Jindal group's alleged involvement in the coal block allocations.


The Zee group, however, denied the allegations made by Jindal. According to news reports, Punit Goenka, managing director and chief executive, Zee Entertainment Enterprises had said, “This kind of allegation has happened in the past and may happen in the future. It doesn’t make any difference to us and we will stick to the truth. These are all pressure tactics.”  Read: Zee News-Naveen Jindal episode: Real face of media exposed?


Earlier, Jindal instigated an initiative that led to a revision of the Flag Code of India which now grants every Indian citizen the right to fly the Flag of India (also known as the ‘Tiranga’) publicly with dignity and honour on all days of the year.



Dayananda Kamath k

3 years ago

cbi should also investigate how he got 366 subsidised gas cylinders in a year. as earlier reported in news papers.every energy source is being misappropriated.

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